One month ago, we had a busload of farmers and stockman from Argentina stop by PCC Headquarters for a visit. I have heard from a few of them since they returned home. If you are a beef producer, the following email from Pen Gunningham should will give you something to think about.
I was in the group of Argentine farmers who visited your cattle ranch last month. It was a very interesting visit, as you have a different approach to cattle breeding than what appears to be the norm in the US. The group and I have a specific question about the end product… beef.
One evening we were treated to a steak dinner. The beef came from an Angus herd of excellent looking cattle and was eaten in a restaurant exclusively provided with beef from this herd. The opinion was unanimous – very edible and tender but totally tasteless. On other occasions at different locations, the opinion was the same. On my return to Buenos Aires, to make sure I wasn´t dreaming, I went to a prime beef restaurant, and had a steak of good texture with a taste from a completely different world.
Our big question is why?
It can’t be the breed as the beef came from an excellent Angus herd. Possibly not enough grass fed. Maybe it is the result of a long period of intensive over-fattening in a feedlot. When visiting a feedlot, we were told that one group of cattle had 60 more days to go – but, in our mind, they should have been slaughtered yesterday. Maybe it is a cooking problem, but that would seem unlikely.
We would be interested to hear your opinion. I invite you to come to Argentina and eat some tasty beef. I have a son and a daughter who live in the US, but seldom eat beef. Now I know why. Surely it can`t be worse than chicken?
Sincerely, Pen Gunningham
My mind was filled with many thoughts. However, before attempting to share my opinions, I decided to send this email to PCC Discussion Group. I’m glad I did. There are several experts in this group who know what they are talking about. I will share just a few of their comments. I learned a thing or two – and I think you will too. This goes along perfectly with our Make BEEF Great Again campaign. There is no better place to start than with flavor!
- I think excessive fattening in the feedlots is a big part of the problem.
- As someone who travels extensively, I can attest to the fact that nearly all beef throughout the USA and Canada is bland and tasteless. In my opinion, this is because a very small percent of the beef sold in the USA and Canada is grass-fed or grass-finished.
- Bland diets (rations) lacking in diversity lead to bland flavored beef. The beef may be tender and juicy but it will only taste like whatever it was seasoned with. The same is true with chicken breasts.
- Beef needs a diverse forage-based (mineralized) diet to create flavor.
- One of the primary reasons for very poor flavor profiles and poor texture in feedlot beef, as well as commodity poultry and pork, is the heavy use of DDGs in the rations. DDG’s have virtually no bioflavonoids and cannot depart any flavor to the end product.
- DDGs create a very poor, almost mushy, texture. It also creates a way-out-of-whack omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. We’ve seen ratios as high as 55:1. That’s deadly!
- Since every feedlot feeds a “least cost” ration, there is no such thing as a “typical” feedlot ration. The incorporation of cheap DDG has been very bad for beef’s perception by the consumer. That is why Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat, etc. have been able to make significant inroads.
- The so-called allergies to beef are not really an allergy to the beef but to the traces of DDGs and other residues that are in commodity-fed beef.
- When commodity beef is compared to properly finished grass-fed beef, the grass-fed beef has far better ratings for initial flavor, sustained flavor, initial juiciness, sustained juiciness and texture.
- Beef will continue to lose market share to other proteins and fake meat until we decide to take charge of our industry and provide consumers with a product that is truly flavorful, tender and healthy.
Consumer perception of beef is eroding much faster than I ever thought possible. For good reason, more and more of today’s consumers are becoming disenchanted with industrial agriculture and the way conventional beef is finished. If we do not make a concerted effort to Make BEEF Great Again, the beef industry will eventually become a fraction of its former self. Unbeknownst to most cattlemen, the commodity beef industry has shrunk nearly 20% in just the last 15 years.
The obvious solution to this problem is grass-finished beef. Notice, I said “grass-finished,” not “grass-fed.” Cattle were designed to eat high-fiber forages that most animals cannot utilize. Cattle were not designed to eat corn or DDG. Grazing cattle are extremely beneficial to the environment. Industrial agriculture and confinement feeding of livestock are harming the environment. Grass-finished beef has a much better omega-6 to omega-3 ratio – which will greatly improve consumer health. On top of all that, grass-finished beef tastes great! All you need to add is a little salt and pepper.